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Weed 'em and reap
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In 1904, a blight ravaged the American chestnut trees, killing most, and severely weakening the bulk of the remainder, turning them into small coppice stools whose trunks typically fail before fruiting age is achieved.

To make matters worse, when the chestnut trees began to die off, land owners had the vast majority of them logged off to capture their value, fearing that they would all otherwise die. This over-reaction caused almost all of the remaining trees, some of which may have had resistance to the blight, to be obliterated.

But there have been, over the last century, specimens that demonstrate a resistance to the blight. others have been created by hybridizing with other chestnuts, and crossing back to the resistant specimens of American chestnut, so that the resulting trees are almost entirely American chestnut in their genotype and phenotype, but have improved resistance.

One of these almost-completely American hybrids is the Dunstan Chestnut.

I became interested in restoring the chestnut when I found a handful of chestnut trees still alive on my property. They have multiple stems that grow from very old root systems, but the stems die when they get to about 8' tall. They all likely pre-date the blight, and are severely overtopped, and all succumb to the blight. But they keep producing new shoots.

So i first determined to clear around them, in order that they might grow faster, perhaps reaching fruiting age, and, by cross-pollenating with each other, might produce offspring with resistance.

Then I ordered two Dunstan hybrid chestnut trees. They arrived today. They will naturally cross-pollenate with my native 100% American chestnut trees, and I assume that the offspring, though more thoroughly American chestnut than the original hybrids, will have some specimens that are resistant, These will survive where the suceptible specimens will die off. Within the next 30 years, I envision that I will have restored the American Chestnut to its original niche on my property, and that the trees will drop fruit and spread to the state forest next door.
 

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Weed 'em and reap
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
When you have nuts, I will take two and nurture them here in IL. Ive read about the problem and it makes me think we will never have "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" Its a good thing you are doing.
You, and anyone else on these boards, are welcome to as many seeds as you want, as soon as they start bearing in a few years.
 

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Prepared Gourmet
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I have 2 buildings on my property. One is a fairly large log cabin made of hand hewn wormy chestnut. The logs were cut and squared off, according to all I can find out, in the early 1700s. The cabin itself was built nearby but not on my property, and was moved here, slightly reconfigured, in about 1940. It is still fully habitable ... in fact, I am typing this from there right now. We love it and want to preserve it as best as possible, although that is not a cheap or easy task because the wood is so old now. The logs cannot be replaced. I would give anything to have some chestnuts growing here on this land too.
 

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Living YOUR dreams!
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Most hybrids ARE Chinese!

Do chestnuts exhibit both sexes or are the separately trees male & female? (I've never had dendrology).
How can you guarantee that your natives do the fertilization? Otherwise you just run the risk of more hybrid x hybrid trees.
You sound like one of Dr Hamiltons students from PA. If your not, and you are successful, I'd like to put the two of you together. Or at least your seed.
 

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I have been trying to find some chestnuts also .I found some chestnuts at a produce stand that were the first I had seen in years ,so I tried to sprout them and they would not.I am guessing they were some type of hybrid.Only trees I have found are at Gurneys plants .I have ordered from them this spring,they are kinda $$ and I am not real impressed with their quality !! They have chinese trees for fall delivery,best I remember they were about 30 $ a piece .Good luck on your project ! I did get a bunch of pecans to sprout so I will have pecan trees.
 

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Watcher, you beat me to it. The ACF is the place to check out. I too have several
old chestnut stumps that sprout up shoots and then die off because of the blight.
The die off of the american chestnut really put a damper on the wildlife that feeds
on them like deer, turkey,squirrels. I'd love to see some specie of the chestnut
restored.
 

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Weed 'em and reap
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
The Chinese chestnut is blight resistant. Could it be crossed with the American chestnut? The American chestnut was a majestic tree!
That's how they created the Dunstan Hybrid Chestnut. They selected the few remaining American Chestnuts, and intentionally infected them with blight. When they didn't find them suceptible, they bred them with 3 Chinese varieties. Then they bred them back to the American ones a few times, to make sure they were genetically mostly American Chestnut, and that they looked like American Chestnut. Basically, they are a small percentage Chinese chestnut, but they grow as trees (nut shrubs like Chinese Chestnut), and have American Chestnut type wood.
 
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